64 GB SanDisk Extreme Pro
The SanDisk Extreme Pro is the fastest UHS-I card we tested for the price, and it’s covered by a lifetime limited warranty.
Keep an eye out for counterfeit SD cards, which are slower and may not have the advertised capacity. Avoid purchasing from third-party sellers—look for “Ships from and sold by Amazon” or purchase directly from Best Buy, Adorama, or other reputable retailers. And be sure to select the original packaging, not Amazon’s “Frustration-free” packaging, for example.
64 GB Transcend W60MB/s
The Transcend is slower than our top pick, but it usually costs less and it’s still fast enough to shoot 4K video.
If the SanDisk Extreme Pro is out of stock, we recommend the Transcend W60MB/s. The Transcend was our budget pick last year because of its excellent price-to-performance ratio—it’s usually about 10¢ cheaper per gigabyte than the SanDisk. The Transcend is fast enough to shoot 4K video, but was slower than the SanDisk in our burst shooting test and artificial benchmarks. Like most good SD cards, though, the Transcend performed about as well as the Extreme Pro in sequential read testing. It also has the same lifetime limited warranty.
Table of contents
Who should get this
If you own a camera or camcorder, you’ll probably need an SD card to store photos and video. SD cards can also be used to add more storage to your laptop, portable scanner, ebook reader, or gaming console. Check your device to make sure you need an SD card (not a microSD card) and that your device doesn’t include one that works well enough.
If you already have an SD card that gets the job done, you shouldn’t upgrade. Our pick isn’t leaps and bounds better than anything that’s been available for the past couple of years. But if you need another SD card, or you’re having issues with the speed of your card—maybe you burst shoot photos in raw format, or want to shoot 4K and it can’t keep up—consider our picks.
How to avoid counterfeit cards
Fake memory cards are a real problem. Because they look nearly identical to the real thing, they’re easy to buy by mistake, only to find your speedy 32 GB card is actually a slow 8 GB card without a warranty. Don’t buy from third-party vendors on big marketplace sites. Instead, when buying an SD card, look for “Ships from and sold by Amazon” or purchase directly from a reputable seller, like Best Buy or Adorama. If you get your card from Amazon or any other retailer that provides packaging choices, be sure to select the original packaging (not Amazon’s “Frustration-free” packaging, for example).
Some Amazon customers have reported receiving fake cards directly from Amazon. If you suspect your card is a fake—look for strange packaging, or test the card with CrystalDiskMark to check its speeds—contact Amazon customer support for an exchange.
How we picked
The most important features of an SD card are speed, reliability, price, and warranty.
SD cards are most commonly used in cameras for storing image and video files as you shoot them. Because most cameras can take photos faster than they can write them to storage, images are first saved to a small but speedy buffer in the camera. Once the buffer is full, the images must be written to the SD card before you can shoot any more. The faster the device can write data to the card—the card’s write speed—the faster this buffer clears and the sooner you can shoot more photos. So write speed is the most important spec for SD cards that are used in cameras.
If you use burst mode a lot, it’s important to know how fast a card needs to be to keep up with continuous shooting raw. We did some back-of-the-napkin math to find out, multiplying Wirecutter’s camera recommendations for burst frames per second by their average raw image size to figure out a ballpark image bit rate in megabytes per second.1
Our midrange DSLR pick, the Nikon D7200, has a burst shooting image bit rate of about 200 MB/s, which slows after six shots until the camera’s processor clears the images to the SD card. Our point-and-shoot recommendation, the Canon PowerShot G9 X, isn’t nearly as demanding: It has an image bit rate of about 58 MB/s. Our alternate point-and-shoot pick, the Sony RX100 II, has a continuous shooting image bit rate of around 114 MB/s, though. Bit rate varies by camera, generally getting faster as cameras get better. And since an SD card can last you a decade, spending the extra $10 now instead of getting a cheaper, slower card is worth it.
Read speed is important when copying data from the card to a computer, and when reviewing photos on the camera. Read speed is not as important for cameras as write speed, but because read speed is often faster, manufacturers like to brag about it on the label. Read speed is more useful for SD cards used for expanded storage in, say, a laptop, since you’ll mostly be accessing media you’ve already put on the card, or copying photos from the card to the laptop’s storage. There isn’t much of a difference in read speeds among the best SD cards, though: All of the UHS-I cards we tested for this update had an average read speed of around 92 MB/s.
This is what you should look for in an SD card:
- Class 10 rating: This rating guarantees the card has a minimum sustained sequential write speed of least 10 MB/s—the bare minimum for shooting 1080p video. (The other speed classes are 2, 4, and 6, which denote the minimum write speed in megabytes per second.)
- U3 rating: Since many newer cards have speeds faster than 10 MB/s, Ultra High Speed classes further differentiate their performance. U1 cards are recommended for 1080p video recording and have minimum write speeds of at least 10 MB/s; U3 is required for 4K video and designates a minimum write speed of 30 MB/s. Since U3 cards aren’t prohibitively expensive and you may eventually want to shoot 4K video with this card, we recommend cards with a U3 rating.
- UHS-I bus mode: Bus mode is a standard that dictates how different generations of SD cards work. All the point-and-shoot cameras we recommend support at least UHS-I bus cards. The standard is backwards compatible, meaning you can use a faster UHS-II card with a UHS-I camera, or a UHS-I card with a UHS-II camera. But you won’t get the full speed of UHS-II unless both camera and card have support, because it requires an additional row of physical pins to achieve its extra speed.
- 64 GB capacity: a 64 GB SD card should be spacious enough for most uses, and they’re less expensive per gigabyte than 32 GB cards. If you need more room to store your media, many 128 GB SD cards cost about the same per gigabyte as their 64 GB counterparts. Check your device to make sure it supports SDXC (extended capacity) cards before buying one. If not, stick with 32 GB to make sure your card works with your device.
- Reliability: An SD card holds the only copy of a photo between the time you take it and when you copy it to a computer for editing, so it’s important to get a reliable card from a reputable manufacturer—like SanDisk, Transcend, or Lexar—to minimize the chances of something going wrong. Many SD cards come with a lifetime or 10-year warranty, and the SD Card Association says most SD cards have a lifespan of about 10 years with “normal usage.”
- Video Speed classes: The V6, V10, V30, V60, and V90 ratings guarantee minimum levels of performance for recording video. Cards with Video Speed class ratings are just becoming available as of early 2017, and we expect more to crop up over the coming year.
We researched nearly 30 SD card models that met these criteria, and considered only models that are new or have been updated from the nine models we tested in 2016. We didn’t retest any cards that performed poorly in last year’s tests and haven’t been updated. We found three new UHS-I models worth testing: the 64 GB SanDisk Extreme Pro, the 64 GB Transcend W60MB/s, and the 64 GB Lexar 633x.We also tested two UHS-II models: the 64 GB Lexar 1000x and the 64 GB Lexar 2000x.
How we tested
We tested the real-life burst shooting performance of this year’s contenders on a midrange mirrorless camera, the Sony a6300. We also tested the burst-shooting performance of our UHS-I picks against UHS-II cards on a Fujifilm X-T1 to find out if any of these faster, more expensive cards are worth recommending yet.
Then we plugged each card into a Kingston USB 3.0 High-Speed Media Reader and ran CrystalDiskMark, a benchmarking program designed to test sequential and random read and write speeds on solid-state storage. Between each test, we cleared the cards and reformatted them using the recommended utility from the SD Association to stabilize performance.
We used the same methods to test SD cards this year as we have in previous years. But the cameras, card reader, and laptop we used to test in 2017 are different than the tools we used in 2016. This means that last year’s test results are still useful, but they’re not directly comparable to this year’s benchmarks.
Our pick: 64 GB SanDisk Extreme Pro
The 64 GB SanDisk Extreme Pro proved that it is the best SD card for most people because it had the fastest speeds of all the UHS-I cards that we ran through practical and benchmark tests. It’s also reasonably priced, and it’s covered by a lifetime limited warranty backed by a reliable manufacturer.
The SanDisk Extreme Pro is a Class 10, U3, V30 card (oh my!), which means it’s fast enough to record both 1080p and 4K video. SanDisk advertises the card at 95 MB/s read and 90 MB/s write, and we found that to be mostly true in our tests. The SanDisk performed at 93.6 MB/s and 86.2 MB/s in CrystalDiskMark read and write tests, respectively.
Write speed is the most important factor for SD cards, and the Extreme Pro had the fastest write speed of any UHS-I card we tested this year by at least 33 percent. Your camera would be able to shoot more images in a shorter amount of time with the SanDisk than it would with any other of the other UHS-I cards we tested. The previous version—which was identical in our benchmarks—was the fastest card we tested last year, too. (You can spot the new Extreme Pro by the V30 rating on the upper-right side of the card’s label. The older version now costs around twice as much as the new model, so we don’t recommend it unless you can find it for cheaper.)
In read tests, the Extreme Pro was the fastest card again, though all of the UHS-I cards we tested had read speeds between 91 MB/s and 95 MB/s. A faster read speed means less time spent waiting for your photos and video to transfer from your card onto your computer.
We also tested each card’s real-world burst shooting speed in two cameras: a Sony a6300 and a UHS-II compatible Fujifilm X-T1.2 For these tests, we recorded the sound of the shutter closing as we shot a burst of raw images. The resulting waveforms give us a visual representation of each card’s speed. The large group of spikes at the beginning of each waveform represents a burst of shots, which fill the camera’s buffer and must be written to the SD card before you can shoot more photos. Each spike after that is a single shot, and between those spikes the camera is writing files to the SD card. In short: More, closely clumped spikes means a faster SD card.
In the Sony a6300, the SanDisk Extreme Pro had the fastest practical write speeds, followed by the much more expensive Lexar 1000x. The Transcend W60MB/s ranked third, and the Lexar 2000x came last.
The 64 GB SanDisk Extreme Pro is much less expensive per gigabyte than the 32 GB model as of this writing—55¢ versus 72¢ for its smaller counterpart. But if your device does not support SDXC (extended capacity) cards, get the 32 GB SanDisk Extreme Pro. If you need more space, the 128 GB capacity is the most affordable at 50¢ per gigabyte.
SD cards are more durable than hard drives, because they lack moving parts, and they can survive being bumped around and dropped. Like many SD cards, the SanDisk Extreme Pro is rated to survive up to 72 hours in 1 meter of salt or fresh water, can withstand temperatures ranging from –13 ºF to 185 ºF, and is immune to airport X-rays. It’s also backed by a lifetime limited warranty, which covers the SD card as long as it wasn’t used improperly.
Runner-up: 64 GB Transcend W60MB/s
The 64 GB Transcend W60MB/s is a good option if the SanDisk Extreme Pro is sold out. Like our top pick, the Transcend is a Class 10, U3 card, which means it’s fast enough to shoot both 1080p and 4K video. (It lacks the new V30 rating, though the U3 specification guarantees the same 30 MB/s minimum write speed.) The Transcend’s write speeds fell behind the SanDisk Extreme Pro’s in practical and benchmark tests, but its read speeds were about as fast in our benchmarks.
The Transcend W60MB/s had write speeds of 65 MB/s in the CrystalDiskMark test, making it 21.2 MB/s slower than the Extreme Pro but 26 MB/s faster than the other UHS-I card we tested this year. Its read speeds were comparable to the SanDisk’s, at 91.9MB/s. Last year, in a bigger pool of contenders and using different testing equipment, the Transcend’s write speeds were faster than four of the nine cards we tested.
In our real-world burst shooting test this year, the Transcend was about as fast as our pick, the SanDisk Extreme Pro. Although the Transcend was a touch slower, they both captured 10 shots in around 12 seconds. The Transcend performed well against nine other SD cards in last year’s practical test with an entry-level DSLR, though, even outdoing some with faster benchmark write speeds.
The Transcend is usually cheaper than the SanDisk Extreme Pro at around 46¢ per gigabyte. It has a 128 GB capacity, too, but at 57¢ per gigabyte, we recommend the SanDisk instead at that size. The Transcend W60MB/s comes with the same lifetime limited warranty as the SanDisk Extreme Pro.
What to look forward to
In March 2016, the SD Association announced a new standard for memory cards that will support 360-degree, 3D, and 8K video. These V60 and V90 cards will feature minimum sequential write speeds of 60 MB/s and 90 MB/s, respectively. Cards with these Video Speed ratings are not widely available just yet, except from SanDisk’s website, but we plan to test them when they’re more common.
In February 2017, the SD Association also introduced its UHS-III interface to provide further support for 360-degree, 3D, 4K, and 8K media content. With potential read and write speeds of 624 MB/s, UHS-III doubles the performance of UHS-II cards. We expect it will take a year or two before we see memory cards and devices that support UHS-III.
We only looked at Class 10, U3 cards, because they’re fast enough to shoot both 1080p and 4K video. We also eliminated any cards with quoted read speeds below 85 MB/s and write speeds below 60 MB/s, because faster cards aren’t prohibitively expensive.
As mentioned earlier, we tested a couple of UHS-II cards for this update, the Lexar 1000x and the Lexar 2000x. The Lexar 1000x is reasonably priced, but it was slower than our top pick, the UHS-I SanDisk Extreme Pro, in both practical and benchmark tests.
The Lexar 2000x is the best UHS-II card we’ve tested and the only one that made a significant difference in shooting. The 2000x was 1.5 times faster than our top pick in our burst shooting test—shooting 15 shots in the time that it took the SanDisk to shoot 10—but at around 2.5 times the price, we don’t think it’s worth it for most people. It’s a good option for professional photographers with UHS-II cameras who are willing to spend more for better performance, though.
Samsung has discontinued all of its SD cards, including our previous pick, the 64 GB Pro Plus.
The 64 GB Lexar 633x is less expensive per gigabyte than our top picks, but its write speeds were 48.7 MB/s slower than the SanDisk Extreme Pro and 26 MB/s slower than the Transcend W60MB/s.
Last year’s 64 GB SanDisk Extreme Pro, our previous recommendation, performed identically to the 2017 SanDisk Extreme Pro. The older version now costs nearly twice as much as the newer model, and we don’t recommend it unless it’s cheaper than the new one. The older Extreme Pro lacks a V30 rating on the upper-right side of the card’s label.
Last year, the 64 GB SanDisk Extreme Plus had slower write speeds than our picks, and fell behind them in burst shooting tests. It also costs more than twice as much.
The 64 GB Transcend W85MB/s and the 64 GB Toshiba Exceria UHS-I are more expensive than the SanDisk Extreme Pro, and were slower in last year’s practical and benchmark tests.
The 64 GB SanDisk Extreme was consistently the slowest of the six cards we tested in four different cameras for last year’s update.
The 64 GB PNY Elite Performance had the worst sequential write speeds of the cards we tested last year.
(Photos by Kyle Fitzgerald.)